By Tom Mashberg
The inaugural Harry H. Dow Lecture on Immigration Law, honoring the Suffolk Law School’s most eminent Chinese-American graduate, was an emotional evening for the Suffolk community.
Dow’s son Frederick Dow could not help but cry when he recalled his father’s difficult years working long hours in the family laundry business in the South End while earning his Suffolk Law degree from 1925 to 1929. Among other accomplishments, Harry Dow, who died in 1985, was the first Chinese-American to be admitted to the Massachusetts bar.
In honor of Dow’s long and distinguished career as a lawyer, activist, mentor and defender of immigrants’ rights, the law school has created an annual lecture series where professionals, academics, students and activists can meet and discuss the complex lenses through which immigrants see and are seen because of their identities.
The theme of the first Dow lecture, scheduled for Oct. 21, is “the impact of immigration law on Boston communities.” Four guest speakers will discuss how Cape Verdean, Haitian, Latino and Asian groups are affected by immigration policies. Concurrent with the new lecture series, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at Suffolk is offering a new scholarship for students focusing on immigration law. The group is seeking donations to create a permanently endowed scholarship.
At the inaugural ceremony, on March 4, Frederick Dow, an Asian studies scholar and senior investigator with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, presented a slide show and narrative of his father’s life.
He spoke of his father’s strong family upbringing; his military service in World War II as a captain in the Army Intelligence Corps, and later his service in Korea; and his success in the 1940s and 1950s running a law firm focusing on immigrant issues in Boston and New York City.
Fredrick Dow also described the bitter racial discrimination that drove his father from his New York practice in the 1950s, and his father’s cheerful resilience. After Harry Dow retired from the law in 1965, he spent the next two decades as an activist and mentor in Boston’s Chinatown, and as a role model for Suffolk lawyers taking up cases during the civil rights movement.
Through it all, his son said, Dow remained a modest and energetic man whose mission was to champion the poor, the diverse and the elderly, and who never sought or expected honors and accolades.“These are the fortunes of my father,” Frederick Dow said. “He would have been humbled by these gestures.”
Suffolk Law Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ilene Seidman teared up when she recalled Dow’s impact on her early career, recalling how he “understood and valued our work” and gave her and other young lawyers “a moral compass.”
University President James McCarthy spoke at the event.
Law student Dominic Yee also spoke.